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tv   Charlie Rose  WHUT  August 26, 2010 11:00pm-12:00am EDT

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>> charlie: welcome to the broad cost. tonight a charlie rose special edition much. in the 4th episode of our brain series we look at the social brain. >> although many aspects of social behavior are learned, one of the striking things we're going to hear about is some aspects of social behavior are determined by individual genes that have profound effects and how we interact and how we bond together as individuals, degrees of aggression and other things. >> charlie: the 4th episode of the charlie rose brain series underwritten by the simons foundation coming up.
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captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> charlie: tonight we continue our journey through the most exciting frontier of science, the brain. our subject this evening is how the brain controls social behavior. more so than any other species,
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humans are social beings. we depend heavily on each other for safety, survival and companionship. over the course of evolution, humans have adapted not only to a natural world but also to a social one. tonight, we will outline the social skills that separate humans from other species. we will learn how the brain reads facial expressions to determine the thoughts and emotions of others. we will ask what science can teach us about empathy and violence. and we will examine how social skills are compromised in the mysterious disease of autism. for centuries the study of social behavior was left to artists and philosophers, but in the past 150 years biology has emerged as an important tool for understanding the social brain. some of the earliest insights into this were provided by none other than charles darwin. he proposed that social traits could be passed down through
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evolution much the same as physical traits. expanding on his theory of natural selection, darwin argued that emotions are scroocial to the sur-- crucial to the survival of the species. unfortunately not all of our social behavior is positive. we will also examine tonight the biological basis of violence and aggression. some day science may offer hope for understanding anti-social behavior. joining me this evening, a remarkable group of scientists who have devoted their careers to understanding the social brain. they are cornelia bargmann, she studies the genetic control of social behavior in simple animals such as worms and flies. she is also a professor at rockefeller university. kevin pelphrey, his work uses brain imaging techniques to understand social perception and cognition. he is an associate professor of child psychiatry at yale university.
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giacomo rizzolatti let's. in 1996 he discovered cells known as miro neurons. they are thought to play many crucial roles in social interburr section. he's a professor. gerald fischbach, victims robbed of their social skill. he's the director of autism research at the simons foundation. and also my good friend and cohost, dr. eric kandel. he is a noble laureate as you know, a professor at columbia university and a howard hughes medical investigator and he has been a good friend to this broadcast. we could not do it without him. he has been the person who has linked our curiosity to an extraordinary amount of research and achievement understanding the brain. so i begin with this question in this episode. social brain.
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tell me what we mean by that. >> as you pointed out, very nicely in your introduction, we are immensely social beings. we use our social behavior to find a partner, to build a many family, to build a community, to build a culture. and also as you indicate, that can go into disarray and lead to aggression. social behavior is so important that it is conserved in evolution and you findate not only in people but you find it in simple an sulz some of which like ants build complex societies. although much of social behavior's learned, important aspects of it are determined by genes. for example, you can show in flies and in worms and in simple mouse like animals, the single genes control bonding, whether animals will hang together or they go their own way. so genes can have important influences in behavior.
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moreover, as you indicated with the social brain, social functions are localized in the brain just as sensory functions and motor functions are. in fact, we see in the social brain that there are sensory areas and the motor areas. in the sensory the visual system is very important. faces as you pointed out are extremely important reading other people's emotions. so there are face areas in the brain that respond not only to faces but to emotional expression of faces. there are areas in the brain, sensory areas that responds to the perception of motion. there's one area that involves response to all motion. mechanical motion, movement of a car as well as the movement of you when you're playing golf. there's another area that this feeds into that is specialized just for social motion. it only responds to biological motion, to your playing golf, to somebody walking, to somebody shaking hands. it does not respond to mechanical motion at all.
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moreover, as you pointed out, parts of the motor systems are committed to social behavior. rizzolatti let's made a discover there are areas in the motor system that responds when the monkey picks up a glass of water. that's not surprising. the motor system is designed to pick up a glass of water. but the amazing thing is, same cells in monkey respond when you charlie rose pick up a glass of water. so they are mirroring your behavior. so empathic identification with another person is mediated through the motor system. we have learned all of this by looking at the emotional brain. >> charlie: autism. we learn about the brain often through disease. what do we know about autism? >> we know that autism is a disturbance in social interaction. we know that its incidence is increasing in part because we're diagnosing it more. and we know a number of interesting features about
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autism. for example, kids with autism are inward directed. and when they look at one another, they don't look at the other person's eyes. one of the characteristic features of autism is they turn away from looking at the eye. so if you look at a normal image, so you look at a normal person and an autistic person looking at the same image, a blond woman, you see that the normal person focuses on the eyes and the nose. the autistic person cast their eyes downward. does not focus on the eyes, does not focus on the mouth. so you can tell even by watching the eye movements which is part of the biological motion system that there is something different in their interaction. but one of the astonishing things about autism is that some small but very interesting fraction of kids with autism are very talented and they can draw
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remarkably well. could we have the next visual, please. >> charlie: oh, nadia. >> you know this stuff, charlie. on the left is a drawing of a horse done by nadia when she was five years old. she could do this when she was two and-a-half. she couldn't talk. she had very poor social directions but she could draw a horse that would jump off the page. i compared this horse to a horse natalithat that leonardo de vent convenient -- de vinci. there are many mozart. to be a great composer, many kids start composing at a very early age. three, for, five. mathematicians can start early. but pa caus piccasso claimed you couldn't get a sense until you were nine, 10, 11 years old.
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he could not draw a horse like that when he was five years old. the fact they are compromised in some ways kids with autism can have remarkable strength. i think that supports a point that is emerging in a number of these programs that howard gardner has made, that there are multiple intelligences. you can be strong in some things and weak in others and conversely you can have serious compromise of function and do exceedingly well. that probably holds for the two of us. >> charlie: this is charles darwin's book, the expression of the emotions in man and animals. darwin was amazing. >> amazing man. he was without a doubt the most important biologist who ever lived. he not only formulated the theory of evolution but he realized that behavior evolved. just like body parts evolve, so does behavior evolve. you can see examples of human behavior in simpler animals.
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and since emotion is an important feature of behavior, you can see expressions of emotion in animals and you could detect that. he looked around at different groups of people living throughout the world and he realized that they all had a fixed number facial expressions. six or seven that expressed different emotions. and those are conserved. so whether you're living in the orient or living in america, you express emotions in exactly the same way through the same facial expressions. >> charlie: this is an extraordinary idea and we explore the social brain with our group of experts. understanding how this remarkable idea takes place in our brain. >> most animals, most living things spend at least part of their life in association with others of their own kind. and we know that even in the way we talk about schools of fish or flocks of geese or hives of bees, that groups of animals are often units that are traveling
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through time and are behaving together. so they have to recognize each other, they have to communicate with each other and they have to generate coherent behaviors. what eia wilson noticed a naturalist about the middle of the last century is that many of the social behaviors that animals have are recognizably similar to each earth, related to each other, even in animals that are different and widely separated by evolution. when you make an observation like that in biology, very often what it means is that there's an underlying genetics. that's very ancient, that is contributing to this same output in lots of different animals. and that idea of taking different genes that sort of flowing them through the different animals and using them for social behavior in a variety of animals is the idea that builds on the idea that there's a genetics of social behavior. now eil wilson himself was not a
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jeanette es that wasn't his concern but the idea that grows out of different animals and the idea of biology of social behavior. >> fortunately she is a geneticist and she's made a wonderful discovery about genes and social behavior. >> if we could have a movie, i'm going to show you the organizism that my lab works on which is a very simple worm. and this worm is tiny and it lives in the it eats bacteria but it has a number of interesting behaviors and among those as shown in this movie are that it's a friendly worm. and so if we look at a group of worlds together, here we -- worms of together, here we see the worms are associating with little black worms and they're gathered together in two little cluster of animals. most of worms want to spend most of their time with other worms except they'll wander off and come back and join the group. this isn't about food, there's food everywhere. it's not about mating, this is a
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family show. it's about the animals preferring to associate with each other. >> charlie: why do they prefer to be with each other? >> well, they accomplish certain things within the group. they create an environment that's locally better for themselves so they're actually solving certain problems in their environment within a group. that's what animals in general are doing when they create a social environment. sometimes it's a good idea to be sociable and sometimes it's not. so for example during mating seasons or spawning season, one sex associates more with out and lots of herding species, the females form groups but the mails don't. what we find in these worms is that we can actually describe the different changes in behaviors based on genes that some worms are sociable and other worms are more solitary. we can describe the difference between them based on a single
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gene that varies between them. they have a high level of activity of the gene will tend to spend most of their time alone. with low level activity will spend their time together. we can actually trace out differences between individuals. not just the overall broad things that everyone shares but even some of the systems for dialing behavior up. >> charlie: you look at their genes and see how this happens or why this happens. >> yes. it turns out this particular gene is called mpr-1 and it's a neuropeptide recour receptor. it's a particular system that lets groups of neurons that can be quite broadly scattered coordinate their activities. >> charlie: let me move to primates and tell me what we have learned about social interaction among primates. >> well, i think we're one mechanism which we just call it, it's very important in showing
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how monkeys interact with one another. especially this discovery of mirror neurons show there's a specific way in which the animals and humans as well, we'll talk later about humans, have knowledge on it. the so in other words there are these neurons which fire both, one you observe something or one you do the same thing. the type of knowledge you get is committeely different from that that you can get -- so what you are doing inside my brain became my behavior. so it is a specific type of link which cannot be substituted by ananything. you do something that enters my brain as a motor system. and that's my experience. so somehow we share the experience.
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it's not only a way to understand because then there are many other ways in which we can understand the behavior of others. but this one has this unique stuff how we shared experiences. >> charlie: you did some mirror neuron experiments with a champ pan see in 199 . >> yes. we started in 1992. >> charlie: tell us about it. >> what you see here you see the experiment and you hear the action potential. it has the signal of the brain. so what you have to follow is simply to correlate what is going on the screen and the nose and you will see that every time the monkey grasping an object you hear the action potential. and then the strange thing is one person will do the same thing. you will hear exactly the same action potential. so it's the same neuron which is the trigger either by monkey grasping or by the person grasping. it's kind of dialogue.
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you see or you hear, or yourliel traits can mirror meurnz account for? >> well, i think this capacity to have a common experience. so the knowledge which mirror neurons provide is kind of from internal, from my point of view, it's a experiential thing. i can understand you, let's imagine that i'm in the bar and i am grasping something. i can understand because i am thinking about oh well if he's grasping probably he will drink. but i can understand immediately and usually that's what you do. that i will drink. so that type of experience is shared immediately, that i think is the normality of mirror neurons. >> the discovery of them is one of the major discovery of the last 20 years in neuroscience because it taught us several
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different lessons. one is as he indicated, the appreciation that one has in one's brains, the capability of understanding another person's action. that when somebody does something, your own nervous system goes off as if you're carrying out the action yourself although your hand doesn't move. that's number one. number two, we used to think that the sensory systems and motor systems are completely separate. this practicing of sense rea information, your movement is occurring in his motor system. so a fraction of the cells involved in picking up this pencil will respond when you pick up your pencil. it's in the motor system that he discovered this remarkable thing. so he made us realize that the motor systems have sensory cognitive cape bl tease. it's an extraordinary answer. >> charlie: so what are things that mirror neurons allow
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humans to do that no other species can do. >> there is some evidence but actually we are the only species which are good at imitating. we are the only species -- that's why we have culture. because what you discovered, i can imitate you, eric can imitate. so we have culture. we are unable to imitate we have no culture because something discovered disappears. and monkey could not do that. so that's why we think in monkey is not for imitation but for understanding. and on the top of it, it goes up our capacity. >> i think there's a very important issue here. you use the word in and giacomo has written about that. it's a signal which you've discovered as a correlate, a neurocorrelate of understanding another individual's action. and i think that goes mimicry,
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to me it always has anyhow. something very profound about how animals, people can communicate at a very deep level. so i think it's more than, to me it's been more than mimicry. >> can you imagine how much learning must go on. it's really sort of an implicit mechanism that doesn't involve motor movements. it's not thought that maybe children learn aspects of language acquisition by seeing their mothers move their mouth, the mother's mouth. the child sees that and learns to do this intuitively. it's really a remarkable insight. >> so very much inspired by work in labs looking at the monkey using single cell recordings, we're interested now in understanding these mechanisms in humans. and so humans have the ability to social perceive others. it's quite extraordinary doing this automatically
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unconsciously. we look around as we're sitting around this table. we're able to understand the motives of other individuals, the psychological dispositions, their intentions, their actions, etcetera. so we're interested in how do we do this in humans. there are areas of the brain that's involved in social perception and i wanted to highlight one region we've been studying quite a bit in our laboratory, the superior sulcus region. it's highlighted here in blue. you put it in reference to two regions that jump mow has talked about nerms of mere -- terms of mere neurons. one of things ha that we discovd this area in yellow responds very strongly to motion. well it responds to just about any type of motion. so we shared now different types of motion two biological, two non-bbiological. i mean something very simple. looking at how people are walking, pointing, where you're
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looking, etcetera. all of these things are very very important cues for social perception. i can understand where you're looking is where your interest currently lies. that's where your attention is. this is a brain region that we have to four different types of motions. we showed the same still law, the triple -- still law, the triple cull susresponded to the biological motion compared to non-biological motion. at this point in the visual stream is making this fundamental categorical distinction between what out in the environment is biological, animate, something to pay attention to you because it demands a different way of interaction can provide you clues about social perception versus things that are mechanical. and it's important to emphasize sort of taking this to humans and i think also back into monkeys which we were talking about iation.
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the way we're thinking about this is on the one hand what i'm telling you is there's an is he is qui --he is compared to a non-social, more general processing region. but we think that these work together. the mirror neurons are representing the action of reaching. we're doing this interesting simulation type of computation and they're getting to hippic h- mimicry. it told these other regions that this is biological versus non-biological motion. this process is happening whereby this region is integrating the context of that action. understanding i'm reaching into a glass, understanding integrating the motion that i might be thirsty, etcetera. so it gets you to the intention of the action, okay, instead of simple mimicry. the last thing i wanted to
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mention about the superior sulcus, i wanted to bring us into the area of autism. one of the fundamental goals is to try to understand why children with autism, how difficult it is perceiving other people intentions in particular and their actions. so one thing we did, we showed children with autism in typically developing kids, children with autism you're typically developing children, we showed them biological and non-biological motion. we could see in their non-biological motion area they're responding strongly to both types of stimuli. both groups of children were responding to all this stimuli. that's perfect more than what we see time and time again. it's suggesting that those children are doing quite complex information processing. from the point of view of a vision scientist this motion processing area is an extraordinary complex visual pathway and complications. when you get to the biological motion region, only the typically developing kids responding to the biological
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here in red versus the non-biological in blue differentially. you see the kids with autism are treating these two stimuli equal in the point of view of their biological motion processing region. >> charlie: as we listen to every episode to this i'm hearing certain common theme. one is localization. the cutting edge of where brain research is going. he's understanding where localization is. the other two is as we're discussing here both genetic and environmental, where those come. >> right. >> charlie: and the third thing that i find is how complex all of this is so that if you really want to go to really understand it, you have to go to begin with genes where you can isolate. these are commonnallities. >> this is why it's so important to have differential models. it's fan tassic understanding how the genes control the
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neurocur can you telneurocircui. monkeys are close to humans so you can study mirror neurons. each one can give you a different insight into what biological problem. but there's one other point that i think is important to emphasize. these are very different problems and we at the beginning aren't understanding any one of them. it's really in the last decade or two that the social brain is really emerged in terms of dissecrete subcomponents. >> charlie: in the last decade or two. >> yes. >> charlie: the last thing i was going to say is we understand a lot by looking at disease. autism. >> yes. charlie, i think this is also a theme throughout every session of the program that basic science has taught us a lot about human disorders or predictments. but conversely it's the human predicament that has told us enormously about science of the
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brain. we talked about this in the very very first show and no where is that illustrated more profoundly than in autism and related developmental disorders. autism runs the spectrum between normal behavior and at the other end of the spectrum really compromise severely compromise individuals. i want to begin this brief production by talking about leo canar a man who grew up in vienna about a generation before eric. >> impossible. [laughter] >> this is in pal pal pal lytic. he came in this country in 1924, ended up in john hops king in the early 30's and wrote a paper in 1943, very classic paper entitled autistic aspects of
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disorders. he didn't title the paper autism. he borrowed that term from the schizophrenia literature, the inward looking nation, the inward looking nature of some people with schizophrenia. they are totally introverted. i want to read you a few words of his description before showing you a voas a video. in his first paper he talked about 11 children. one of them donald he realized was happiest when he was alone drawing into a shell and living within himself, oblivious to everything around him. donald liked, had a mania for spinning toys. he liked to shake his head from side to side. all of these illustrate some cardinal features of autism. he liked to spin himself around in circles and he had temper tantrums when his routine was disrupted. he also noticed that donald had explosives, seemingly irrelevant use of the words and he referred to himself as the third person
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and repeated words. let me now quote epilelia. he calculated his own desires by speaking about himself in the third person. so it's this notion of the cardinal symptoms of autism being withdrawn from social contact. not taking part in empathetic play, joint play, mutual attention. looking at people and really engaging them by looking in their eyes. but there's also an element of repetitive behaviors, motor functions which at times are uncontrollable, bordering on the obsessive disorders. and then there are language issues about expression of language beyond the non-ver nonl communication. some of this is in a video i would like to show. there are two parts, a wonderful young boy and his mother. first at their home. they are planning now how to drive to school.
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and the young boy wants to go one route and his mother had planned to go a different route. what you see here is the absolute resistance and the repetitive, almost uncontrolling insistence on saneness, on going this one take route. just repeating over and over again it's tuesday, he must go in this particular route. >> on tuesday. >> honey, last night -- >> on tuesday. >> on wednesday. >> maybe on tuesday. tomorrow's tuesday. >> it's on wednesday. today we're going to take this one. >> you may say you've seen your own children behave this way, but this is a pattern of repeated extreme behaviors which can be incapacitating.
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what i want people to notice here is how wonderful his mother is and how she looked, how patiently and how she works with him and eventually he wil calm n and move on. it's a difference in degree. perhaps not qualitative behaviors. this is a predicament that many people are facing today. autism is a remarkably prevalent disorder. most recent estimates are one in 100 children in this country are born. here she reaches out to touch him and they'll move on. and now you'll see him in the classroom where he's calmer but the hallmarks of autism are here. he's repeatedly patting his hands, flapping his hands. a child will do that on occasion but not to the extreme that he does throughout this video. he is not paying attention to what's going on in the front of the room and the classroom.
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i believe his mother is sitting right behind him calming him down from moment to moment. here he's flapping his hand. he's a wonderful attractive young boy who we hope will improve with time and will become more socialized. but right now he's quite withdrawn from everything going on around. >> charlie: why? >> well, there are many clues to causes of autism. much much of it in the last four or five years. i think most people if you approach them would say that they believe genetics, genes and behavior, that genes play an enormously important role here. i do not for a minute want to rule out environmental factors. there's one startling fact that everyone has to appreciate and that is when you look at identical twins, the same genetic make up, if one of the identical twins has autism, the
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chances are 90%, 9 out of 10 times that identical twin will become autistic. there is not any other disorder heritable disorder that i know that has that high a concordance between identical twins and that has convinced many people that the quickest route to understanding autism from a mechanistic point of view will be the focus on the genetics. >> charlie: if we can identify those genes, then what can we do. >> charlie, here is where the challenge is. i just wish the geneticist would tell us what these genes are and stop ... >> slowing us down. >> ... slowing us down. everyone knows when we do that, when we have the genetic land scain, when we understand what the genetic risk factors are, then we have to find out where in the brain these genes are working, when in the brain they're operative. is it prenatal during the first,
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second or third trimester of birth or is it in certain critical periods later in development? there's evidence that some autism follows a pattern of regression, children that develop normally for a period of time. although this is a strong debate in the literature but it may be there are different critical periods. autism is not going to be a simple one gene one disease phenomenon. in fact the best estimates i know of suggest there may be more than 100 genes that enhance the risk of autism. and they may act at different times in different ways. that's what challenge is. >> charlie: the most important thing is identifying these genes or are there other things that we're making dramatic progress in autism because it is something i've heard more and more about over the last four or five years. is that because there are more cases or simply more understanding? >> i think the prevalence is increasing. if you look at the graphs, the
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reported prevalence since 1985 is going up and up. used to be thought it was one in five thousand and one in a thousand one now one in a hundred. if this is a genetic disorder, how can this happen? it may well be that there are certain environmental influences but i believe, i think many believe that there is an increase in the genetic risk, and autism is not inherited in the usual sense. if you think of it, autistic children don't often grow up to have families, large families. so why is it increasing. why isn't autism decreasing? and the thought is that there is a phenomena called denovo, new mutations that happen every generation. when sperm and egg cells are developed, there are mistakes. not mistakes, there are changes that happen where you are a
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combination of your mother and father for every protein in your body you inherit one gene from your mother and one from your father to make up a pair. but that copying functions is not precise. you're different from your mother and from your father and from your siblings and you're different because you don't copy all the dna exactly. there can be spelling mistakes or little pieces of dna, submicroscopic chunks of dna which get deleted or duplicated. so you are different and we're all different from each other around the table. due largely to these denovo mutations. >> charlie: another term. and talk about aggressive behavior. >> the level of animals, animals have fights and animal aggression or animal conflict is something that is well organned and has rules -- organized and has rules. it's a way animals use to
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allocate scarce resources. so i'm going to show -- you've all seen movies on the nature channel, elks fighting each other for a female. but these movies will show you even simple animals, fruit flies can show aggressive behaviors. and so these are going to be two male fruit flies and they're going to be fruiting over a food supplies. so in the first very short clip you're going to see one fruit fly decide that the other fruit fly has got to go. >> the next one. >> in the second video we'll see one male fruit fly decides the other male fruit fly has really got to go. i want you to watch this movie to get a clear intention of this fly's action. [laughter] >> charlie: what did we learn from this.
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[laughter] >> the most important thing to learn is these are not fights to the death. when animals have this kind of an argument there's a winner and a loser. and the loser goes off to try and find another location to find some food. if these were two males they might have been fighting about a female instead of food. these are orderly ways of determining who gets to be dominant and who has to move on. and in fact animals will remember this and they will change their behavior even pretty simple animals will remember who they lost the fight to. fish can figure out that if they lost a fight to this guy and an even bigger guy beat up the other guy, the even bigger guy just don't even bother. this is a logical intelligent way of working. and there's work in animals told us something that there really is a biology that there are chemicals involved in the memory of being a winner and a loser.
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and that for example serotonin, a neurotransmitter is particularly involved in correctly recognizing whether you've won or lost an argument. and so again this is a neurochemical that's present in the human brain. there's some evidence that severe disruptions in serotonin systems cause disruptions in your ability to correctly learn and evaluate a situation where there's a potential aggressive interaction. >> charlie: go ahead. >> it's thinking about this, you know, human aggression is much more complicated than animal aggression. again, you have to recognize when you're working with biology and when you're working against it. and there's situations where aggression is going to be much more common than others. since aggression is designed around a limiting resource, when resources are limited, these going to be more fights. there's going to be more conflict and that's just going to be a basic rule no matter where you are. another thing we've learned from
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animal studies is how greatly aggressive behaviors are modified by stress. so your brain under stress is a completely different brain. >> charlie: more likely to be aggressive. >> much more likely to be aggressive, less likely to remember properly what your place in the hierarchy is and much more likely to lead to con flick in the future. these kinds of understanding of biology can help you to evaluate what the causes of addressive behavior might be and how you can go about creating situations when those are more or less likely to occur. >> charlie: sometimes you get in a less controversial area and people will suggest the reason for some aggressive behavior or some obscene behavior had something to do with biology rather than, and that's where the moral they and the ethics and science, am i right or wrong. >> absolutely. >> it's complicated. we start from children, we learn throughout our lives what the right way is to act within our
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environment. we're educated for many years until we encounter each other and we learn that the football field is an acceptable place to give aggression under well defined circumstances. with protective head gear. we learned other situations are incorrect situations in which to display them. >> i don't deny the aggression and everything we've said in biology. but i think we are born to be good as a matter of fact. >> charlie: that's the point i wanted to get to. >> there is some pain, we have exactly the same feeling as if we had been in pain ourselves. in other words we have a mechanism which it's the same reaction when we are in pain because of nature or stimuli or one which is somebody else in the same condition. so seeing him in pain is as if i was in pain. so we have this link between
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emotion, mine and the others which is practically a necessity that the other happen. with the other happy, i'm happy. if he's happy, i'm happy. that's the kind of nature biological link we are born with. then of course during lives there are many conditions in which there could not be. they can be traded to be not good. but i think we will be born not like kind of all the nucleus. we are born to be good. and then there's the society the stress that make us to be bad. >> that's a very good point. the great protestant theologian once said the people for good with makes dram see available and the need for evil makes it necessary. there's social custom often determines how we behave. the capability for good is the
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predominant built-in mode but we can be corrupted. >> charlie: corrupted by. >> by social pressure, by all kinds of constraints that society has or by lack of resources. >> as you say, if you see someone in pain you feel pain. but if you see someone angry, you start to feel defensive, good behavior with positive behavior in yourself or problematic behavior in yourself. >> one point i want to high light is that a lot of the mechanisms that we're talking about with for social perception can be used for good. so i can try to understand other people's intentions because i want to help them and we hope that most of the time that's what's going on. but these very same mechanisms are extremely powerful if i want to compete with them. so the car dealership and you're trying to stare down the dealer and figure out the best price in
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the car. do you see in middle school, for example, a period where children try out all of these mechanisms in social perception. you see a great deal of bullying and aggression. think of it as the same underlying brain systems but being used in different ways and interacting with learning and what's appropriate and what's thought. also being regulated by other brain systems by doing these same mechanisms to do harm to he people which they're just as good at. >> i'm just restating what you said. that these systems for social action are in turn controlled by other systems that are open to a variety of social pressures that can convert them from one goal to another. >> exactly. for example when you talk about this switch to stress now you're using this system to figure out the best way to land a punch. >> in termpunch.
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>> charlie: in terms of difficulty and in terms of understanding where we are, the social brain is it the one where we know the least, the most, is it the one where there are more questions. >> i think that's a difficult question to answer. i think that it's amazing how much we've learned in this short period of time. so i would say that going from a relatively limited understanding, we've moved a long way. now we don't understand social behaviors as well as we understand visual processing but people have been studying visual processing in a profound level for a very long time considering the fact that the number of people working on social behavior is more restricted and a relatively shorter period of time. i think the progress has been remarkable. moreover as sherry indicated, if you take the major diseases that hoard mankind, schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, autism, i think we've got a lead in autism that other disorders do not have. that is we have offer ann tom
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cull understanding and the beginning of trying to get the appropriate genes including the idea their denovo mutations in which part came out of these studies. i think we're doing quite well. none of these problems are going to be solved in the next 10 to 20 years but we have a strong beginning in getting a good understanding of autism and social disorders. >> charlie: i always ask two questions. what do you want to take away from this sort of in essence and what is the one question you hope we can answer in the near term? >> charlie, what i want to take away is the notion that biology is profound and that we really have good handles to understanding that. but always appreciating that there's an element of indeterminism here and of learning and plasticity and a great deal of hope in learning about the biological mechanisms because the real hope is they were able, be able to be used to
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alter pathological states. and there's very good hints now in animal models of developmental disorders that once you do have a handle on some of the important genetic influences, although it's not a sure thing, you may have a shot at reverseing some of these phenomena. so my hope in leaving and thinking about this is that we will begin to understand how the genetics and the physical properties of the brain influence these important social cognitive phenomena. i think it's going to be more complicated than we think. it won't be strictly, may not be strictly localized to one renal o --region of the brain. the brain is an information machine and we have to learn how that information is processed. but i think that it will be disorders like autism and related disorders that lead us
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to a deeper understanding of who we are as humans. >> i think one of the things i want everyone to take away is something we actually didn't talk very much about. >> charlie: that's why i asked the question. >> maybe in a future segment. that's really a developmental perspective. the reason why autism is such a profoundly difficult thing to understand in development, we're talking about a neurodevelopmental disorder and things are changing constantly and if you take all of that into account. if the question i want to address in that medium to short term is i think we're in a position where we have an understanding from genetics, both clinical genetics and work in other octoberisms an octoberd non-primates and begin to understand the early development in the social brain. and why different social brains
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develop differently. in the extreme why does a social brain develop in the direction of autism. with that knowledge, then we can design rational scientifically informed treatment approaches that would alter social brain development and then ultimately alter the course of autism. i hope that occurs as quickly as possible. >> here we discuss it on one side of incomism lik mechanism. on the other hand we have not spoken so much about theory of mind. it's interesting that we have explanation of many other diseases or of social behavior in terms of psychological terms. so my dream will be to explain the psychological term in terms of mechanism because then the link with genetics become much more easier and obvious. because if we say well the theory of mind is wrong, it's not going well, in a sense we
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kind of describe in a more elegant way. >> don't you believe some of the things you're identifying are steps in understanding that. >> exactly. but my dream is to arrive to a step in which i say theory of mind is because it's the following mechanism. it's because you don't aid something. not simply theory of mind is the same. >> charlie: but theory of mind means what? >> theory of mind refers to the fact that when you and i have a conversation, i have a general idea of where you're going, where you hope to get at. you have your own way of thinking about a problem. autistic kids can't get into your brain. they don't understand that you have your own agenda which is different than their agenda. >agenda. >> this is very profound. it's a matter of belief. when the children develop an idea about false beliefs that other people may believe things that are different than what they believe. it's different than a shared emotion. a young child will smile when
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you smile or they'll frown when you frown or appreciate the person you're looking at may be thinking about something that's different than what you're thinking about is a very late developing and very profound skill. >> and a key concept that relates back to aggression. it's understanding that another person's plea may be different from -- belief may be different from yours and different from what you know to be reality, the belief of what reality is. those two things disagree that's an opportunity for conflict. >> good point to take away is our brains are not calculators where you punch in a bunch of numbers and you get a number out at the end. our brains are ourselves and they incorporate what's important and how we feel and they give you different kinds of responses. one of the most important things for us is each other. from the moment of our birth, the most important aspect of our life is our ability to predict and affect the behavior of others. and so this is a big part of what it is to be human.
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and i would say that the question i would like to understand is how a biological system can do something so remarkable. >> charlie: well said. eric. >> i think there are two things that struck me that had come out of this discussion. one is how important it is for biology for our understanding of using a number of different experimental approaches, including different organisms. vary in complexity from worms to non-human prive mate primates t. this is essential, this comparative approach that is critical to behavior, number one. and number two, given the fact that we are born to do good, as suggested we would believe but we're capable of evil. to understand better how one flips from one to the other. and to see it whether we can prevent this tribalism from becoming a dominant force. wouldn't it be wonderful if they had some biological insight into
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how to contain that. >> charlie: so there you have it. a insight into the social brain. next month. >> so the next month we're going to consider the developing brain. we're going to look at how do kids acquire language. to what degree is this innate, to what degree is this learning. how do they acquire other skills, mathematical ability, how do they develop the ability to tell space. how the lodge processes develop. so we're going to look at all of these things. also we're going to see that there are a numbe modules of cognitive development that can be impaired by different diseases. so we're going to look at a fragile x syndrome, a number of really por disorders that affect different aspects of intellectual development in kids. >> charlie: i can't wait.
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